PMS, or pre-menstrual syndrome, is a hormonal disorder characterized by the monthly recurrence of certain physical or psychological symptoms during the two weeks before menstruation and the subsiding of those symptoms when flow begins or slightly afterwards. There are many common PMS symptoms. Abdominal bloating, acne, angry outbursts, anxiety, appetite changes, backache, bladder irritation, breast swelling and tenderness, bleeding gums, confusion, constipation, cramps, decreased productivity, decreased sex drive, depression, facial swelling, fatigue, forgetfulness, headaches, hives or rashes, herpetic outbreaks and hot flashes are some of the varied symptoms associated with this disorder. Add joint pain, leg cramps, mood swings, nausea, panic attacks, poor judgment, tension and weight gain. PMS is frequently misdiagnosed as anxiety disorder, depression, seizure disorder, panic attacks, eating disorders and various personality disorders.
PMS can be treated with a 90% success rate. There is no definitive diagnostic test that confirms a diagnosis of PMS and there is no clear course of development. However, progesterone levels are decreased. precipitating factors for PMS include oral contraceptives due to synthetic progestins, pregnancy, miscarriages and abortions and tubal ligations. 37% of women who have a tubal ligation develop PMS and other complications such as pelvic pain and irregular cycles. Studies do show that after tubal ligation, women have higher estrogen levels and lower progesterone levels in the second half of their cycles. Age is also a precipitating factor as is low blood sugar. Due to hormonal changes a women’s body becomes more sensitized to drops in blood sugar the last two weeks of the cycle and symptoms of hypoglycemia are very much like PMS symptoms. The treatment for this relative hypoglycemia would consist of 6 small meals daily, no refined sugars, Vitamin B6 and avoidance of caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine makes things worse by increasing the body’s production of prostaglandins causing breast tenderness, arthritis, abdominal cramping, headaches and backaches. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and depletes the body of potassium, magnesium and the B and C vitamins, and it can cause the release of adrenalin in the body which can lower blood sugar!
Headaches can occur because at the time of ovulation, both estrogen and progesterone increase and can precipitate a headache. Estrogen also binds salt in the body which may cause swelling. Women would do well to avoid foods with high sodium content and incorporate foods in the diet that are natural diuretics like strawberries and parsley. One should also increase water intake, exercise and use progesterone under the care of a physician. Progesterone is a natural diuretic. Women with PMS also have low magnesium levels, so foods high in magnesium and supplementation are in order. Tomorrow we continue a discussion of PMS and treatment of the disorder.